I never imagined someone as happy and positive as me could hit rock bottom. Until I did.
Hitting rock bottom always conjured an image of someone sprawled face-down on a concrete floor, as if he or she had just plummeted to the bottom of a well. It was gloomy and damp. Their gray outfit matched the somber stillness.
They were so spent that they couldn’t move. They could only lie there, waiting. They waited until they had the energy to sit up. Then stand up. Then start crawling out of that hole and fighting their way back into life.
Interestingly, this image accurately mirrored my own experience. I just didn’t know what it would actually feel like to hit rock bottom – only what it would look like.
So, here’s what it’s like to hit rock bottom from emotional, intellectual and physical perspectives.
Emotional rock bottom
I hit rock bottom after an affair ended (you can read more about that here). It had ended abruptly, with a poisonous level of malice and cruel finger-pointing.
He had initiated the affair. He had monopolized every bit of my time and attention. He had convinced me that my husband was a loser. He had encouraged me to leave my family for him. He had stood by while I moved out of my house, upended my life and lost many of my friends. He had promised me the sun, the moon, the stars – hell, the whole damn universe. He had even promised me a plum job at his new company.
When reality got too intense, he washed his hands of me and the path of destruction we had created. He took no responsibility for his actions. He simply walked away.
In eight months, I had disintegrated. When I hit rock bottom, I was merely a human shell. Every emotion had been wrung out of me, and I felt nothing. I didn’t feel anger, despair, sadness or disgust. I didn’t feel any positive emotions, either. They were long gone.
I felt like a robot. I went through the motions of life, deriving zero satisfaction from … anything.
The things that used to fill those small moments of life with joy became obligations. Writing, cooking, taking a long walk, reading, playing with my kids – they were a way to fill the minutes, hours and days.
The bigger things in life that used to bring me pleasure became impossible to do, let alone think about. Visiting a museum, picnicking at a winery, attending the ballet, dining out with friends. They were literally mission impossible.
Like the person lying on the concrete floor, my entire world had gone gray.
Intellectual rock bottom
Hitting rock bottom intellectually might sound like an odd occurrence, as if I had misplaced my IQ. I did not, of course.
Instead, this particular form of rock bottom manifested in two ways:
One, I could not nurture and grow my business. I could only maintain it. I stopped going to networking events. I stopped taking meetings. I stopped checking in with clients.
This caused business to slow down … way down. My income shrank. I was living on my own in an apartment I could not afford. The debt began to pile up.
Even though I knew what I needed to do intellectually to grow my business, I couldn’t.
Second, I had to come to terms with what I had done – and I had to own it. This was done in therapy.
I went to therapy weekly for about a year. I paid in full, out of pocket, every week. I spent over $8,000 on therapy, and it was worth every single penny.
Owning what I had done required a lot of work. I had to take stock of who I was, what was important to me, why I reacted to events the way I did. I made some fundamental changes to who I was. As a result, my emotional intelligence zoomed from rock bottom and into the stratosphere.
Physical rock bottom
An emotional gut job eventually affects the physical self. My energy became sluggish. I slouched through grocery store aisles. I slumped on the couch.
I tried to comfort myself with booze and food. Neither helped. I gained weight even though I continued to go for a long walk every day. My face filled out. My pants got tight. I looked as bad as I felt.
Amazingly, I slept OK. Probably because it was an escape from reality.
After I hit rock bottom, I stayed there for three months. It took three months for the energy and emotions to refill me, an empty vessel.
Then one day, I couldn’t stop crying. I begged my doctor’s office for an emergency appointment. I didn’t even get dressed. I threw a hoodie on over my pj’s. As soon as I was shown into the exam room, I curled up on the table.
I was diagnosed with depression and given a life-saving prescription for Zoloft.
I don’t consider that diagnosis rock bottom, by the way. At this point, I was sitting up on the cold concrete floor. I could feel emotions again. I understood the gravity of what I had done. I faced who I was, and it was not a pretty picture.
The Zoloft gave me the strength to stand up.
When I became determined to rebuild my life and reconcile with my husband, I was able to crawl out of that gray hole and emerge into a vivid, neon-colored life.
I never want to go back.